Friday, April 18, 2014

5 steps to keep the workplace safe

If you own or manage a business and are wondering what you could do to keep your workplace safe for employees, customers, business partners, and visitors, there are relatively easy and cost effective steps you could take to do so.  Not every business needs a fenced in property with motion sensing cameras and armed guards to be safe and secure.  Here are 5 steps you could take to ensure a safe workplace:

Check before you hire

The most important preventative measure is to not hire people who have a history of violence or who are prone to violent behavior.  For a relatively small fee, businesses can conduct criminal background checks on potential employees or vendors through state and local police departments or by using background investigation services.  Most background services could also check names through sexual offender databases.  Further, past employers and references could give a better picture of the person’s demeanor and behavior.

A receptionist sitting behind an office in a workplace.
 A receptionist can screen visitors upon entering a workplace. 
      Vet them before they come in

Most businesses do not need a uniformed security presence.  A receptionist working at the main entrance area could screen visitors and determine the purpose and scope of their visit.  Ideally, the reception desk should be a secure area with no direct access to the main office or work area.  Once vetted, visitors or customers should be escorted or buzzed into main work areas.  All other doors should require a key, swipe card, or punch code to access.  For businesses performing sensitive work, a license plate reader (LPR) system could be installed at the vehicle entry point.  A LPR has the ability to read and record license plates of vehicles entering or exiting the facility.  This could alert others that a vehicle has entered the grounds and, if the license plate number was previously entered into the LPR database, could identify the vehicle or operator.  This identification process is especially useful if a former employee or customer has been prohibited from the property.  Of course, security cameras mounted inside and outside the business could help identify trespassers so law enforcement could be alerted.

 Identify them

Visitors should be positively identified by government issued or other suitable identification.  A visitor pass in the form of a sticker or clip badge should be issued and worn at all times.  The pass should include, at minimum, the person’s name, date and time of the visit, and what area of the facility they are allowed to visit.  Enhanced visitor passes could include a digital picture of the visitor and some type of expiration notice.  Different colored passes could be used to indicate the type of visitor (i.e., customer, vendor, maintenance, etc.) and authorized areas of access.  Just as important as it is to identify visitors, employees should also wear issued identification badges.  This makes it easy to identify who does or doesn’t belong on company grounds.

Control their behavior

All organizations should have a clear policy that mandates respect between individuals and addresses unacceptable behavior in the workplace.  Moreover, employees should know how to report disrespectful or disturbing behavior.  The policy should include zero tolerance for this type of behavior, and should be conspicuously posted for all to see.

Help them deal with stress

An employee assistance program typically offers free counseling services to employees in a number of different areas.  Stress is inevitable in life and the workplace is where it could easily manifest into violent or threatening behavior.  An employee should be able to easily access counseling services in order to deal with stress in a healthy manner.  This could perhaps prevent a violent situation from occurring.
The above steps are easy to implement and cost effective.  In the long run, these strategies will serve to maintain a safe work environment, reduce organization liability, and ensure a happier, more productive employees.



David Jannetty is the Academic Program Manager for the John P. Burke School of Public Service Master of Public Administration program at Post University, and a retired assistant deputy police chief with the Waterbury, CT Police Department. Jannetty has more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, school and workplace safety, and emergency management.